RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State Troopers investigating a deadly crash involving two trucks and a minivan said “distractions or fatigue” likely played a role in the March 22 crash, which killed a Wake Forest High School teacher.
The multi-vehicle crash occurred when a dump truck driven by Donald Wayne Caulder, 29, rammed into the back of Toyota Sienna minivan driven by Michelle Simone Barlow, 42. The impact pushed the Sienna into the back of a tractor trailer that had slowed in front of it. The News & Observer reported that the minivan was crushed “almost beyond recognition.”
Ms. Barlow, an English teacher, died at the scene. According to the News & Observer, Barlow’s colleagues at Wake Forest High School, about 20 miles north of Raleigh, described her as “a passionate, enthusiastic, driven educator who was well-liked by her students.”
Mr. Caulder and Marvin Douglas Erb, 49, of Danville, Va., were taken to WakeMed Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. Mr. Douglas was driving the 18-wheeler that had been driving in front of Ms. Barlow’s minivan.
Investigators found that Mr. Caulder had failed to brake or turn the steering wheel. The lack of evasive actions often signals to investigators that the driver fell asleep at the wheel, was distracted (usually by a smartphone or other portable electronic device), or, more rarely, suffered a medical emergency.
Authorities charged Mr. Caulder with a misdemeanor death by a motor vehicle and failure to reduce speed. He was arrested and released under a promise to appear in Wake County District Court on June 28.
State Troopers obtained a warrant to search Mr. Caulder’s cellphone. According to The News & Observer, Trooper S.L. Moy wrote in the search warrant application that “The seizure and examination of the [cell] phone would allow investigators to eliminate or confirm” if Mr. Caulder was distracted by using the phone “or if other circumstances distracted him.”
Source: The News & Observer